Serie A Best Team To Pick – Week 14

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Here is the suggested lineup for week 14. The scheme is a 3-4-3. Continue reading

Best Serie A team to pick – Week 13

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Here are Serie A’s Fantasy Picks in every position for Week 13. The suggested formation is 3-4-3. Continue reading

Top Serie A Fantasy Player in October

Lazio-Immobile

There were several contenders who would have been worthy recipients of this award as Serie A is heavily featured in the Team of the Month. Alisson, and the Roma defence, have had a great October with several clean sheets, Aleksandar Kolarov has been probably the best summer purchase considering his price tag, Raul Albiol is pivotal for Napoli’s success and Dries Mertens and Mauro Icardi have had spectacular performances. However, the nod deservedly goes to the one who has collected the most points: Ciro Immobile.

The Lazio striker racked up 27 points, thanks six goals and three assists in October: the only flaw was a missed penalty against Bologna. The Biancocelesti have won every game last month, including an impressive comeback over Juventus in Turin, where the Bianconeri had not lost in 41 matches. Immobile tallied at the Allianz Stadium one of the two braces he had in the last 31 days.

The easy victories over Sassuolo (6-1), Lazio (3-0) and Benevento (1-5) show that the side led by Simone Inzaghi has ascended to the upper echelon of Serie A because it can get the job done when it needs to without sweating too much. As of right now, it is tied with Juventus in third position, three points behind Napoli and two behind Inter and they are fully in the running for a Champions League spot. They have coped very well with several absences: they have recently recovered Luis Nani and Felipe Anderson is not that far behind, which gives the attack an extra oomph and Immobile even more assists.

Over the last calendar year, Lazio have become a well-oiled machine and Ciro Immobile is the main beneficiary from the scoring standpoint. The team has great chemistry and precise mechanisms, which more often than not end up with a point-blank chance for its striker. Both on counters and against a set defence, the Italian forward has been lethal: he sits atop of the scorers’ chart, with 14 goals so far, three more than the closer rivals, Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi. After wandering a little since bursting into the scenes in 2011/2012, Immobile has finally found the right situation and wisely agreed to extend his contract with the current club till 2022.

Roma’s goalkeeper Alisson deserves a shout-out, as he collected 27 points as well. Roma did not concede any goal in the five games they played in October and they were not all cupcakes: they faced Milan, Napoli, Torino, Crotone and Bologna. There were some doubts about the youngster this summer and some feared the Giallorossi would miss Wojciech Szczesny, but that has not been the case and the Brazilian goalie is living up to the hype that surrounded him before his move to Italy and a year as an understudy actually helped him.

 

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Serie A well represented in the Ballon d’Or list

Juventus v Sevilla FC - UEFA Champions League

France Football released the list of the 30 finalists for Balloon d’Or yester and Serie A is featured with five players: Leonardo Bonucci, Gianluigi Buffon, Paulo Dybala, Edin Dzeko and Dries Mertens. It is the best result for the league since 2007, when it had 9 candidates and Milan’s Kakà brought home the award thanks to the success in Champions League. In 2016, Serie A had only three nominees. As expected, Liga and Premier League had the strongest performances with 11 and seven players respectively; Bundesliga have three, Ligue 1 four. Club-wise, Real Madrid dominates with seven contenders, while Juventus have the second most, alongside Barcelona, with three.

It is a good result for the league and it is a well-deserved recognition for the elite performance of its best players. Mertens and Dzeko went toe-to-toe in the leading scorer race: the Roma forward won out with 29 goals in 37 games, while the Belgian attacker finished with 28 in 35 appearances. Achievements worthy of the highest echelon of European strikers. Both have been on a tear at the start of the season as well. It is even a more remarkable result for the Napoli attacker considering that he fully transitioned to centre-forward only at the beginning of 2017.

Juventus are rewarded for their Champions League run, which unfortunately ended with another lost final, and for the historic sixth title in a row. They built their success on strong defending and therefore Buffon and Bonucci are obvious choices, even though the defender was not as good after his move to Milan. Had the Bianconeri lifted the big-eared trophy, the goalkeeper could have maybe crowned his legendary career with the coveted prize. Paulo Dybala is on the list as well, mostly because of his stunning start of the season: he has already tallied 12 goals. He was obviously instrumental to Turin club a year ago as well, but not as prolific.

The only notable snub from Serie A is Gonzalo Higuain: he finished fourth in the scorers’ chart, with 25 goals, but reaching the UCL final could have pushed him in the list. His lack of scoring in the later stages of the main European competition, even though he did decide the first leg of semi-final against Monaco with a brace, and his struggles with Argentina likely kept him out. Andrea Belotti had a magnificent year as well, but he does not have the name power of his more illustrious colleagues yet.

Cristiano Ronaldo is fully expected to win his fifth Balloon d’Or, with his arch-rival Lionel Messi coming in second. The race for the third place is open and Juventus could be given a token spot, with Buffon being the logical candidate and Dybala the flashiest one. However, there are plenty of deserving players in the star-studded list and rewarding another Real Madrid player, Toni Kroos or Luka Modric for instance, would obviously not be a bad choice either.

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Napoli the most convincing team after seven games

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After a very busy 20-day stretch, Serie A has reached the second international break, so it is the right opportunity to take a breather and examine where things are at, especially on top of the table. The start of the season has had more confirmations than surprises and the real contenders have already been able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Napoli are alone on top of the standings as they have been perfect so far: 7 wins out of 7. It is the culmination of two years of work under Maurizio Sarri. The Partenopei take great advantage of the most prolific attack in Europe: Dries Mertens, José Maria Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne have insane chemistry and Marek Hamsik broke his unusual drought. They have scored at least three goals in every domestic game. The Azzurri had some troubles only in the home game against Atalanta and on the road in Ferrara, but they managed to come out of top in both occasions. Arkadiusz Milik has not been missed as they have so many weapons on the roster.

Juventus could have easily been on top as well, had they not fumbled away a win that was within reach in Bergamo: they had a 0-2 lead and also missed the 2-3 penalty late in the game. The Bianconeri have not necessarily looked as commanding as Napoli, but they got the job done most of the time. Without Leonardo Bonucci, the defence has not been as air-tight as in the past, but the high-powered offered is carrying them. Paulo Dybala is Serie A’s leading scorer, Gonzalo Higuain got out of the short slump and Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado have contributed greatly: they even have room for improvement once Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi will be fully integrated. Newcomers Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur have been very helpful in light of the injuries in the midfield.

Inter have collected as many points as Juventus: the Nerazzurri had an explosive start, dismantling Fiorentina and Roma at San Siro, but then tailed off a little, but only from the performance standpoint, because the satisfactory results kept coming. The last three wins against low-table teams have either arrived late or been narrower than expected: the attack has plateaued, but they have been able to manufacture random goals. They have great goalkeeping and a rock-solid defence and Milan Skriniar has been as stout as they could have hoped.

Lazio and Roma are slightly behind as they have already lost a game. The Biancocelesti succumbed against Napoli mostly due to defensive injuries, but their latest run has been nothing short of amazing: without most of their centre-back and half of their attack, as Felipe Anderson and Luis Nani have been non-factors due to physical ailments, they have been automatic against the smaller clubs. Simone Inzaghi and Ciro Immobile are the main actors, Luis Alberto is the revelation that solved a lot of problems upfront. Roma are surging: they have played one fewer match because the Sampdoria fixture has been postponed, but after the loss against Inter they have resembled their last season’s selves. Edin Dzeko is scoring at will and the backline is very solid. Eusebio Di Francesco has been able to come up with creative solutions to deal with a slew of injuries and their play has not suffered. If the teams on top slowed down, they could be in the running for Scudetto.

Serie A will return with a bang in two weeks: Juventus will host Lazio, Roma will square off at home against Napoli and it will be time for the Milan derby. The Rossoneri have quickly dropped out of the title race as they are dealing with chemistry and defensive issues, but the game against Inter could be an opportunity to gain some ground in the table and advance their candidacy for a Champions League spot, but they need to turn things around quickly.

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Napoli again lose Milik to a big knee injury

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On Saturday, Napoli came up on top in the battle with Spal in Ferrara, however, they lost their centre-forward Arkadiusz Milik in the process. The exams revealed an ACL tear in the right knee and he had surgery to fix it on Wednesday. He suffered a similar injury on the other knee last season on October 8th: he returned in mid-February, but the coach Maurizio Sarri only used him in small cameos down the stretch because he was clearly behind the other players conditioning-wise. Napoli’s doctors described the recent injury as a “complex tear”, meaning that other parts of the knee were affected as well, but without giving further details. The timetable remains the standard six months.

Before going down in 2016, Milik had scored seven goal in nine matches as his quest to replace Gonzalo Higuain was going swimmingly. His absence prompted the manager to use Dries Mertens as a false-nine, after Manolo Gabbiadini failed to step up, and the results were extraordinary: the Belgian forward tallied 31 goals in the new role and finished second behind only Edin Dzeko in the Serie A top scorer chart. From the production standpoint, Napoli are equipped to replace Milik: at this point Mertes is a full-fledged center-forward and his combination of speed, technique and shooting skills makes him almost unguardable. He has already scored seven times in nine fixtures this season, abundantly outproducing the Polish player, who had played only 195 minutes so far, scoring twice.

However, that does not mean that they will not miss Milik at all: he brings to the table some characteristics that are unique in the roster, such as his physicality, his ability in the air and his nose for the goal in the box. His absence also takes away the possibility to deploy an uber-offensive 4-2-3-1 with Mertens as no.10 behind a striker: Marek Hamsik no longer has the burst to be threatening in the hole and a Callejon-Mertens tandem would feature two very similar players. This tactic contributed to the 2-3 goal against Spal.

Last season, they signed Leonardo Pavoletti in January as an insurance policy, but he ended up recording only 194 minutes and two starts behind Mertens. This summer, they held onto him and Duvan Zapata, who was returning from a productive stint at Udinese, until the Champions League playoff, but, since Milik looked good earlier on, they decided to cash in on both strikers, who were sold respectively to Cagliari and Sampdoria for a combined €27M, a sum that profusely justifies the moves. Unfortunately, that leaves them without a backup striker for the time being.

Mertens has been extremely durable, but he will too need a breather from time to time. The coach announced that José Maria Callejon will fill that role when need be: the Spaniard has rare tactical intelligence and did well in the few minutes he was used centrally on Saturday. This will of course open up some minutes on the right flank: Emanuele Giaccherini is the first in line after they elected to keep him this summer, but the newcomer Adam Ounas is much more exciting option. As always, youngsters are brought in slowly in Sarri’s system, so it will take a while before the former Bordeaux attacker is ready to start.

In a surprise deadline day move, Napoli did sign one more striker this summer: Roberto Inglese from Chievo, but they agreed to leave him in Verona for one more season. Over the last calendar year, he asserted himself as the Flying Donkey’s best centre-forward. The first move by Azzurri in January will be to try to anticipate his arrival. Riccardo Meggiorini is set to return from an ACL in mid-October and Mariusz Stepinski could have completed his adaptation process by then. Therefore Chievo Verona, also in the standings, could be in a comfortable enough position to let one of their cornerstones leave.

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